Chameleon not eating well/right...

lotaxi

New Member
Hello!

This'll be my first post to these forums, so here goes.

First up: information

Chameleon Info:
  • Your Chameleon - I have a female veiled chameleon, about a year old. I've had her since she was about two and a half weeks old.
  • Handling - She's not often out of her cage, but I hand feed daily or every other day, and am very frequently in the cage with my hands performing maintenance
  • Feeding - I am currently working on building a dubia colony, but the stop gap is a mix of mealworms, waxworms, and crickets. I have two veiled females from the same clutch, and one of them is larger than the other. I'll generally feed the larger of the two more than the smaller, so it ranges from 1-2 mealworms, a superworm, or 3-5 crickets. I gut load with a variety of things, and try to pick seasonal foods to force myself to switch up what they're getting. I haven't had crickets in a few weeks, but I would gut load with carrots and mixed greens (lettuce, spinach, cabbage, etc) as the bulk, with little scraps of whatever vegetable matter I ate that day. For the mealworms and waxworms, I generally get grains to mix in with the sawdust stuff that they bed in. Steel cut oats, whole grain wheat, etc. Feeding schedule is generally once every other day.
  • Supplements - I dust with rep-cal brand Herptivite multivitamin, their "original calcium with vitamin D3," and their calcium without D3. I dust all the food every other feeding, so about twice a week. I have also experimented with mixing it in with the mealworm and waxworm sawdust, but to no noticable benefit.
  • Watering - I'm working on building a new cage, so I have a rainfall system that is in the process of being set up. I'm misting with a large hand-powered spray bottle. I mist until large droplets are caught in the screen walls AND is shining off all the decoration and plants.I mist whenever I notice that the previous misting has dried off the screen unless I'm at work. When I'm home this usually means about once every 3-5 hours. My larger female prefers to lick the water off the screen while the smaller descends into the plants to drink off the leaves and nibble a little. I also try to get their casks wet enough that i can see them opening their mouths to lap water from their lips.
  • Fecal Description - Most bowel movements are a dark brown. I monitor for lighter colored droppings and yellow droppings to adjust how much I water them. RECENTLY THE CHAMELEON IN QUESTION HAS BEGUN TO HAVE PARTIALLY UNDIGESTED FOOD IN DROPPINGS. I first noticed when I was cleaning the enclosure and saw what looked like two whole, dried out, dessicated mealworms stuck together by poop. Almost like the insides had been digested but the exoskeletons had passed right through. This may be related to the problem in question.
  • History - Nothing else of note, really. She was separated from her larger sister when I noticed (probably too late) that she was getting bullied. This was at about 4-6 months of age. Her teeth have been an odd brownish-black color for most of her life, and I don't believe this is causing her any issues. Neither she nor her sister have produced any egg clutches, and I'm wondering if it's because they're young or if they're just not getting the nutrients they need to produce them. I periodically gently palpate their stomachs as they sleep to check for jellybeans and haven't found anything so far.

Cage Info:
  • Cage Type - I'm building a new cage because what she's currently in is less than ideal. Glass sides, top, and bottom except for the front which is a sliding screen. I have a small fan pointed at the screen for airflow, and have a really messy mount for the UVB light so it shines through screen. It's too short at about 3' tall and too thin at about 1' wide. I'm aware she's very cramped, hence the new cage in progress. It should be ready in less than a week. I have used mounting putty to create a halo from a rosewood switch that I have mounted as a hoop at the proper basking height. There is also a stick going from the bottom of the cage up to the top, granting her access to a golfball kohuhu plant that is her temporary shelter. She and her sister are in separate rooms so as to reduce stress. When the new enclosure is finished, they'll be in the same room so I can use one rainfall system for both cages, but not visible to each other.
  • Lighting - Zoo med reptisun 5.0 for UVB, a 35W zoo med heat bulb for basking. Lighting is on for approximately 12h/day from 8AM to 8PM via a timer.
  • Temperature - Temperature range is pretty awful, to be perfectly honest. Her basking spot sits at about 80-85F, and the only real gradient exists on her stick between the halo and the plant. Lowest overnight temperature is around 68-70F. I have a digital thermometer for the basking spot, and I'm going with my home's thermostat for lowest nightime temperature.
  • Humidity - My humidity goal is to be enough that her skin looks somewhat moist from a distance. I don't have a hygrometer at the moment, but I'm working on that. She looks ashy sometimes, so I may need to water more often at a lower volume. In essence, the humidity varies and I'm trying to improve that
  • Plants - Golfball kohuhu is the main structure in the cage.
  • Placement - Cage is on a desk. She generally sits a little below eye level when on her basking perch. It is in view of a window, but not really near any other things like vents. I do have a small fan for ventilation because of my paranoia about respiratory problems stemming from the glass cage.
  • Location - Central coast of CA, USA
OK. SO. NOW THAT THAT'S DONE.

I hope I was thorough enough. Let me know if you need clarification or more info.

Current Problem - She's been having difficulty eating for the last two to three weeks. At first I thought it was a hunger strike, but she'll take food, chew on it a couple times, then spit it out. Most of the time it's still alive and she'll go for it again. Repeat until she finally gets it down. Even when she gets it down, it doesn't really seem like she chews it much (possible reason for the desiccated corpses found in droppings described above?). The larger female I have makes many crunchy noises with insect carapaces as she chews. The smaller one might make one or two as she gets it into her mouth, but then just swallows it while making vaguely chewing-like motions.

She also shakes quite violently from side to side when she begins chewing, making me wonder and worry about very early onset of MBD. She doesn't have any spine alignment issues, swollen joints, slightly agape mouth, odd shaped ribs, or a rubbery cask, before you ask. I've also gently gotten her defensive and open-mouthed for examinations. I don't see any issues in her mouth or throat, so I don't think that's an issue. It's possible she's bruised her tongue, but it's been a couple weeks since I did anything other than hand feed.

I doubt it's a bacterial thing because , and I don't think it's parasitic because they share the same water and food sources (insects awaiting inevitable doom in the same cups and enclosures, water from the same bottle, I don't wash my hands between caring for one and the other) and the larger female doesn't display any of the above symptoms. I have observed the larger female striking at poop with the apparent intent to eat it once, but never with the smaller.

It's been suggested to me that it might just be that she's tired of mealworms, but the way she acts when she takes them makes me think otherwise. She'll immediately grab one with very little effort on my part, but then has difficulty.

Help me please. I really like my girls and I want them to be as healthy as I can get them to be. A veterinarian visit is a little above my pay grade at the moment as I'm settling into a new living situation and a new job, so I'm really hoping I can get this done with as little professional medical intervention as possible.

Thank you all in advance!
 

lotaxi

New Member
She has never laid, and as far as I can tell she doesn't need to. I feel for eggs but don't feel any. Like I said, I'm not sure if this is just because of low nutrient availability in the insects I've been feeding (working on the dubia colony to fix this) or because she's just under a year old and hasn't gotten there yet.

Here is a couple pictures of Lina. She wasn't particularly pleased to be woken up, but this is about normal coloration (maybe a little more muted because she just woke up) for her when she's out of her cage.
 

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lotaxi

New Member
She has never laid, and as far as I can tell she doesn't need to. I feel for eggs but don't feel any. Like I said, I'm not sure if this is just because of low nutrient availability in the insects I've been feeding (working on the dubia colony to fix this) or because she's just under a year old and hasn't gotten there yet.

Here is a couple pictures of Lina. She wasn't particularly pleased to be woken up, but this is about normal coloration (maybe a little more muted because she just woke up) for her when she's out of her cage.

In contrast, this is her sister in the same situation. She's always been the more aggressive one, so handling is a little more stressful for her. She'll tolerate me after a couple minutes, but she's wary of the camera.
 

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Andee

Chameleon Enthusiast
She doesn't look gravid which considering she looks at least 8 months old means you are relatively lucky considering she hasn't laid at all. But the girl you are worried about does have a distended belly in some areas, more in the lower intestine area and it wouldn't be enough I would automatically think gravid. In fact I am leaning strongly toward either impaction or parasites? Does her feces when she goes smell kind of rotten or like sewage? It's the only words I can use to describe a chameleon a poop when they have parasites. When they don't have a parasite load that is causing issues, their poop smells musty at worst. The fact that she has undigested food in her feces is also a strong indicator of parasites that have gotten out of control with her system. Especially since her basking temps are pretty normal. Either diagnosis is cause for a vet visit sadly. Which I understand being an issue.

Why are you having issues getting dubia? If you have the set up I can send you a small start up colony. If you are in the US that is. Generally I am doing it for several people already and another 50 or so more adults won't cause any issues with my colony (1000+ roaches easy with over half being adults)
 

lotaxi

New Member
Is the distention being seen in the first chameleon or the second, more colorful one? I don't see it in either. If they sit in a certain position their gut bulges out just below the ribcage, but I don't really count that as distension. Both chameleons are rather flared in the shots because they weren't particularly pleased with me, but Lina (first chameleon, the one Im worried about) will generally keep herself thin when she doesn't mind being out. After I took the camera away she did just that, and I didn't think anything was bulgy where it shouldn't be. I also don't see any issues with her vent, which I believe is an indicator of high load.

I guess what I'm asking is what exactly do you see that looks like distension? I don't see anything I would recognize as it, but I don't have much experience with chameleon illnesses.

Also, I'm not having issues with the Dubias. I'm just getting everything set up so that I can get them in and already have enclosures, egg crate, water crystals, heating, and whatever else I need on hand. I've ordered a starter colony of about 50 adults along with around 300-400 assorted younglings, but with the rain and lower temperatures in my area they're waiting to ship. Theoretically it'll happen any day now.
 

Andee

Chameleon Enthusiast
I see the distention in your first chameleon, Lina, her vent wouldn't be a big indicator with parasites unless it was a huge parasite load and something that was killing her right there and then. For the dubias I would rely mostly on your fruits veggies for a water source.

In my opinion Lina just looks rather bloated compared to even a normal veiled chameleon. I apologize if this post doesn't make a huge amount of sense I will try to fix it later when I wake up, I am exhausted an half asleep at the moment, just wanted to respond while I was still awake XD
 

lotaxi

New Member
I see the distention in your first chameleon, Lina, her vent wouldn't be a big indicator with parasites unless it was a huge parasite load and something that was killing her right there and then. For the dubias I would rely mostly on your fruits veggies for a water source.

In my opinion Lina just looks rather bloated compared to even a normal veiled chameleon. I apologize if this post doesn't make a huge amount of sense I will try to fix it later when I wake up, I am exhausted an half asleep at the moment, just wanted to respond while I was still awake XD

I really appreciate the help you've given me so far. I can start researching possible treatments and things, learn symptoms and causes etc.I just have an amazing number of questions about new things I don't quite understand yet. When you're less exhausted and if you're willing to answer, I'll pick your brain about exactly what you see and why you think it is what it is.

Go sleep
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Queen
I can't see the pictures of the first chameleon.

They are both old enough to produce eggs at that age.

Your gutload/feeding needs to be improved. I use greens and veggies such as dandelion greens, kale, endive, escarole, squash, zucchini, sweet potato, sweet red pepper, carrots and a bit of fruit such as apple, pear, berries, melon.

You should dust at most feedings with the phosphorous-free calcium powder, twice a month with the vitamin powder and twice a month with the phosphorous-free calcium/D3 powder.

Shaking violently is not a sign of MBD.
The shaking could/might be because something is uncomfortable in the area where the tongue is stored...but you'd need a vet to check I think. I know you said you can't right now. I don't know if letting her drink more would help thisnor not.

Once I see the photos I may have more to say.
 

Andee

Chameleon Enthusiast
I see relative bloating in her stomach that wouldn't be there considering how much she is puffing. It's below her rib cage. But Kinyonga has a great point too, if she has some issues with her tongue (not only the flesh of it but also possible the bone) that could cause some severe pain and not want to chew. So there are several things that could be wrong. I do think a vet visit is in order.
 
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